How long do employees feel a sense of connection to an organisation for? Does it walk out of the door when they do?

What’s the reality of brand loyalty and advocacy? And what happens if a workforce doesn’t feel connected?

I spent a decade working in-house and still feel loyal to the brands and companies I worked for. From getting irked spotting old Visa logos to an incredible sense of pride walking through the East London line stations on the London Overground, it feels personal.

I wonder if professional communicators experience more of a connection because it’s our job to get inside the DNA of the organisation, so we can articulate it and ultimately live it?

I wrote Employee advocacy goes under the microscope in 2013 and featured my fellow Share This book author Philip Sheldrake. He wrote: “I described the relatively recent concept of employee advocacy in my last post as rather uncomfortable and somewhat forced, and I’ve been asked to qualify this description.

“Firstly, it’s worth stating the obvious – the aspiration that employees might advocate the employer is hardly a new idea. But this relatively new desire to go about it more systematically is prompted by employees’ increasing social media activity.

“While recommending an employer down the pub leaves no discernible trace, doing so online does, and that appears to have internal comms, HR professionals and social media types hot under the collar.

But here’s the rub. Genuine employee advocacy remains a consequence. That’s always been the case and will always remain so.

“You can’t insist. You can’t take control of employee social media profiles. You can’t pick out people for failing to advocate, not without creating the kind of culture that’s counter to employee advocacy.

“I’ll leave you to ponder whether you’re ready for a systematic approach to employee advocacy with the following diagrammatic polemic. It’s short on detail if only because I believe you’ll know in your gut, in your heart and in your mind whether you’re about to do something that’s “rather uncomfortable and somewhat forced”. Or not.”  – Philip Sheldrake @sheldrake, Partner, Euler Partners.

What are your views on this subject? As ever you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

Further reading on my blog: How employee advocacy works using social media – published in 2016.

Rail family

Tonight I watched the next instalment of the excellent Fifteen Billion Pound Railway programme on BBC Two.

It’s documenting the construction of the Elizabeth line, formerly known as Crossrail. It’s a brand new TfL-run railway line under London and is due to start introducing new 7-carriage trains on the Liverpool Street to Shenfield route soon.

I live near a station in West London which will feature on the Elizabeth line. I’m looking forward to seeing the new service start in the near future and find the railway fascinating.

The line is named in honour of the Queen. She’s pictured below unveiling the name back in February 2016. On the far left of the photograph is my old Tube Lines CEO, Sir Terry Morgan CBE, who is now Chairman of Crossrail.

During my four-and-a-half years in the railway, both at Tube Lines, and as Head of Comms at London Overground Rail Operations Limited, advocacy was rife.

But was it for the railway or the company? I think it was the railway. Role engagement was high, but organisational engagement less so.

This is an important distinction and one internal communicators need to be mindful of, particularly as most organisational communication focuses on organisational rather than role engagement.

E.g. people may love being a train driver, a midwife or a teacher, but are they engaged with their role or with your company? What impact does that have in the way you communicate?

If I asked you, would you know who and what your employees are engaged with? And would you interchangeably use engagement and advocacy? That feels like another blog post. Hmm.

Linda Miller (no relation) is featured on Fifteen Billion Pound Railway. We worked together in my Tube Lines days and she’s an incredible role model.

I’ve enjoyed seeing her on screen and remember hearing her talk passionately to our 150-strong Senior Manager group at the monthly Senior Managers’ Meeting at Westferry Circus.

She ignited the room when speaking about an upgrade project we were conducting on the London Underground back in 2007.

Linda’s career includes serving as a paratrooper and helicopter pilot in the US army, an engineer on a new Cape Canaveral launch complex and latterly as Project Manager on the Crossrail project. She’s now over the other side of the globe, helping build the Sydney Metro project, lucky them!

Watching her on screen brought back lots of fond memories of my railway days.

I particularly remember seeing the Class 378 trains being built at Bombardier in Derby in 2009, which now operate on the London Overground.

I think there will always be a part of me that is linked to the railway. It’s full of skilled engineers and people who have given their life’s work to creating infrastructure and services to be proud of.

It’s not without faults, but show me an industry that isn’t! It’s also where I met my husband, so maybe that’s part of its eternal appeal for me.

Watching the show tonight (you can catch it on iPlayer if you’ve missed any of this or last series), it made me think about the employees and contractors working on the Elizabeth line. They’ll have stories to tell and will no doubt feel a sense of pride watching such an important transport link spring to life because of their efforts. Well done to everyone involved.

What are your views on the subject of advocacy and brand loyalty?

As ever you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

Thank you for stopping by,

Rachel

Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 29 May 2017.

Photo credits: TfL.